MEDIA DAY: Offensive notes

After a year in football suburgatory, Jeremy Hill is glad to be back on the field and eager to be back in the mix .

Bing in the spotlight and in front of cameras and microphones is nothing new to LSU freshman running back Jeremy Hill.

It's been a long journey back to the point, though.

Hill and his Tiger teammates went through Media Day on Tuesday and for the first time since the end of his stellar prep career at Redemptorist, Hill spoke to the media.

A commitment to LSU from the Class of 2010, the former Parade All-American sat out the 2011 season to deal with a sexual misconduct arrest from his senior year. He watched as Kenny Hilliard – regarded along with Hill as the best backs in Louisiana in 2010 – emerged late in the season as a go-to back.

When the season ended, Hill removed the drama of his re-recruitment, which played out as rumblings surfaced that he might wind up at Alabama. He pledged to the Tigers, enrolled in January and went through spring practice.

In the spring game, Hill got the ball seven times: 6 carries for 37 yards and one catch for 2 yards.

That first taste was nice, but coming back this fall and stepping on the practice field knowing there is a season on the horizon is a whole different level of excitement.

LSU coach Les Miles welcomed Jeremy Hill to the first day of practice last week.

"This is amazing man," Hill said Tuesday. "Every day I wake up, I just thank God for all these blessing and the opportunity to be around my great teammates again."

Make no mistake: Sitting out last season – not playing football for the first time since he was old enough to blow by would-be tacklers on the way to the end zone – was excruciating.

There was a thought of going to a prep school to play, but Hill opted to stay close to home, work out on his own and spend as much time as he could searching his soul for the motivation he needed to get on with life and back to football.

"I just wanted to stay low key and do the right things," he said. "I was staying ready for when I got here.

"I had a chance to learn some valuable life lessons and patience. It helped me find out who I was as a person and has made me stronger."

That emotional strength is a nice complement to the physical potential Hill brings to an already loaded running back group.

After a week of pre-season practice, the 6-foot-2 Hill weighs in at 235 pounds, making him the heaviest of the six LSU tailbacks. He has operated at fullback at times in practice, along with Hilliard and Spencer Ware – giving LSU the potential for diverse and powerful backfield combinations.

Whatever role Hill winds up filling is fine with him. Especially after a year when he had to watch as the game he loved went on without him.

"It pushes me hard to work harder on the field and just get better make an impact on my teammates this year," Hill said. "I'm glad to be back out here."

Not gonna change

For the first half of last season, Ware was exactly the kind of bruising runner Tigers coach Les Miles loves. Not shy of contact and taking the punishment to the defense.

And the numbers Ware racked up were impressive. In games when he ran the ball with the game in doubt, Ware ran for 99, 107, 92, 109 and 80 yards. In all, he averaged 73.1 yards a game in LSU's first six contests and scored 6 touchdowns.

But a failed drug test cost Ware a game against Auburn and when he came back, he never seemed quite the same. He ran for more than 39 yards in only one more game and averaged a scant 32.7 yards in the final six contests.

Spencer Ware

There was some thought that Ware wore down because of his physical running style, but he said Tuesday he doesn't plan on adjusting his methods.

"That's the way I have to run," said Ware, a former linebacker-turned quarterback before he got to LSU and was converted to running back. "I've been a physical runner all my life.

"When I first started playing, I was on defense and that was what I loved. I found out that if I come harder than them and have it on my mind to punish the guy across from me, then I'm going to win the battle most of the time."

To remain as physical as he was, Ware may have to streamline his stocky frame to a degree. He's listed at 225 pounds right now and said he'd like "drop 5 more pounds to get under 220."

After five days, Ware is also working through a sore left hamstring he said is at about 85% healthy.

"I need to get back to the best shape I can be and when I do that I'll be fine," Ware said.

Before quarterback Rob Bolden transferred from Penn State, there were whispers wondering if Ware might get some cross-training as a wildcard QB to give LSU another option behind redshirt freshmen Stephen Rivers and Jerrard Randall.

Ware said he hadn't heard those whispers, but smiled when he did.

"I didn't hear that, but I would like it," Ware said. "I'd love to get back in there and do what I used to do."

So he's not completely over being a QB then?

"I don't think it will ever be," he said.

BIG man on campus

Highly touted offensive lineman Vadal Alexander doesn't stand out in a crowd quite as much as he used to, but he's still one of the bigger players on the roster at 6-6 and 350 pounds.

Studrawa joked that the LSU coaches would like there to be a little less of the promising backup offensive tackle, and that's his goal as well.

Vadal Alexander

"I'm learning how to eat right," Alexander said. "I'm working with a nutritionist every day. She's been with me for every meal. I'm big up top and have a large frame, so she's trying to help me redistribute my weight so I can block people like Sam (Montgomery) and (Barkevious) Mingo better."

Alexander's girth hasn't slowed down his progress. He is working as the backup right tackle behind senior Alex Hurst, next to Josh Williford. Those two check in at a petite 330 pounds.

"People like Hurst and Williford are huge guys, but they've worked hard to reshape their bodies and be more effective," Alexander said. "They've shown me you have to know how to use your size."

Up-and-comer

One of the more impressive freshmen so far has been tight end Dillon Gordon, which probably shouldn't be a surprise.

Dillon Gordon

The 6-5, 280-pounder has caught just about anything thrown his direction when the media has been at practice and could get on the field as a pass-catching tight end.

"I'm a big target and have good hands," Gordon said. "I want to make sure I'm giving my quarterbacks a good target."

There will have to be more to Gordon's game, though.

As a tight end in the LSU offense, there will never be a shortage of opportunities to block and help open the running game on the edges.

"I want to be a better blocker than I am now," Gordon said. "I'm learning the plays and I know I have to show I can play that part of the position well to get on the field."

During pre-season camp, Gordon is sporting a Mohawk haircut, which helps him stand out even more than usual.

That's a look he never tried as a prep star at John Curtis Christian.
"Yeah, Mr. Curtis was kind of strict on how we looked," Gordon said. "He wanted us all to look the same. It's a little different here."

All in the family

You don't have to look far to find a member of the Kragthorpe practice at LSU practices these days.

Besides Steve Kragthorpe tutoring the quarterbacks, Brad Kragthorpe is a walk-on in the group of signal-caller after transferring from Idaho and Chris is a graduate assistant on defense.

And youngest son Nik isn't far away as a quarterback on the University High football team. Steve Kragthorpe said this is the first time the entire family has lived in the same city in six years.

"It's fun having Brad here and Chris here," said Steve Kragthorpe, who was a GA on his father's staff at Oregon State after he finished his degree at West Texas State in the late 1980s. "It makes mom (Cynthia) real happy that all three boys are back in the fold."


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